1 am: “Qui Nhon!” The bus driver yells to wake me from my fitful sleep. I groggily pack my things and get off the bus…in the middle of nowhere. “10 minute walk to taxi, then 10 km to hostel,” he informs me. Daaaaaamn, you can’t take me any farther? Unwittingly, I try a tactic that works in negotiating the world over: looking pathetic and groggy and lost. “Alright, get back in…” he agrees as I morosely flip through my Lonely Planet looking for a map I know isn’t there. Yaaaaay thank you Mr. Bus Driver Man! A good 10 minute DRIVE ensues (imagine if I had to walk that!), and I am dropped off at the outskirts to the city. I hop off with a hearty wave of thanks, and immediately the motorcycle jackals pounce. “Where you go, where you go, 200 thousand dong, 100 thousand dong”
I’m not falling for this one! For once I’ve done my homework, and I know that 30 thousand dong is a fair price. “50 thousand dong! 50!” they proclaim. “Dat gua!!” I reply, “Too expensive!!”. I love this game. I wander up to a slumbering taxi and ask for meter. No surprise, the motorbike jackals scream over my shoulder to charge 200 thousand dong. Alright, you wanna play? Because I am more than willing to stand on a deserted street corner at 1 am arguing with 3 taxi drivers over $1.50. (Yes, I am THAT poor.)
I call the hostel, intending to give the phone over to these insolent drivers when the girl tells me it costs 30 thousand dong. But she doesn’t. She says it should cost 100 thousand. Uh oh…better cut my losses and take this guy for 50 while he’s still offering! I pretend she said 50 thousand, and hop on the back of the bike.
A bumpy 10 minute ride later, we arrive at the hostel. I can only imagine that my driver called out to ask how much they had quoted me, because as I handed him a 100 thousand dong note he nodded and gestured that I go inside, pocketing the money. I don’t move as he walks toward the gates. “Change,” I say. “No, 100 thousand.” “We agreed on 50.” He turns away and begins to speak to the hostel workers, but I turn around and hop back on his bike. Yes, the key is still there! I pop it into neutral and hit the ignition, drawing their attention and an angry shout from the driver.
“Change?” I ask him again, politely but with the obvious implied threat. “We are getting change!” The hostel worker informs me. Good enough, but I KNOW the dude has a 50 thou note in his pocket since he was waving it around in my face 10 minutes earlier, so don’t try to fool me into thinking you were getting that change all along.
For once it’s the cab driver that took a hit to the wallet…it’s about time! Backpackers need a break too!